Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Ursula Burns - Get Divorced and Join the Circus, The Stand, Edinburgh Fringe 2014

By Laura King

She has the Celtic sprite look of a forest dweller, fresh from her tree trunk hollow house, or perhaps a wild-eyed gipsy Queen in her tumbling gold-trim dress as she plucks the barren beauty of doomed love in a cold spell from her harp. 

Romantic ruminations were rudely interrupted by a broad Belfast accent gleefully informing us we'd been tricked into attending a harp recital and urging her techie to "lock the door". Ursula was from the Falls Road.
There followed a host of comedy harp songs starting with one bemoaning the difficulties of playing heavy metal on the harp, and then bewailing her fate as a reluctant harpist, interspersed with tantalising titbits about growing up in the Falls Road, an allusion to getting divorced and running away to the circus (several times). However we were given no cogent narrative as Ursula jumped from one subject to another.

An environmental rant about fracking did not really sit well in the middle of the show following a more inventive environmental update on the fate of Innisfree since Yeats' famed poem, which would have sufficed. Luckily, this section was followed by the song of surveillance, which was brilliant. 

I enjoyed the jokes about the dangers of confusing weddings with funerals when you suffer from mild dyslexia and indeed all the stuff about growing up in Northern Ireland, not least since I also grew up in Northern Ireland and acknowledge the comedy gold of the place.

On the whole I enjoyed the show, but was left with the decided feeling that it would have benefited from more structure, and perhaps more rehearsal, as Ursula forgot her material several times, despite her talent for improv.

Here was a lady with looks, talent and a comedy persona and accent many comedians would give their right arm for. Not only that but she'd evidently lived an amazing life. All the ingredients were there for a winning show, but somehow the recipe was lacking.

Nevertheless, Ursula is a complete one-off, so do go and see her if you get the chance.

Ursula, if you read this, please weave more of your extraordinary life into the show. There is a lot more you could do with it.

***** for talent and *** for material.

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